Why Buy From Independent Eyewear Companies?

“You’re paying for the name.” We tell patients this constantly. When you buy mass-produced eyewear, you pay for the logo/licensing, and not the quality. It’s estimated that 5-15% of profit from sales of the product are paid to the licensor.1 It’s not always worth it, despite the allure. And, with the variety of independent brands out there, why not support these smaller companies?

Independent eyewear is developed by independent companies. These frames are non-licensed and are not mass-produced by a large company. Here are my top six reasons why you should buy from independent eyewear companies.

1. Don’t give your money to your competition

Independent eyewear companies want to grow your business because it grows their business. They often have a commitment not to sell their eyewear online, and to direct interested parties to your practice with their store locators.

Despite common objections, it is possible not to carry “name brands” and still sell eyewear. You must educate your staff, and they MUST buy in. In fact, patients appreciate your attention to detail when it comes to quality and story.

It is your job as a doctor or an optician to educate patients why you sell/don’t sell what you do.

2. Sell your brand, not someone else’s

According to experts, branding is a “promise delivered.”2  It’s much easier to sell your brand when the products you sell share the same mission statement as your practice. Branding includes your target audience, their desires, and how your service is different than your competitors. Independent frame lines can help you to build this individuality.

As a small business owner, your practice should have a brand. You’ve developed a logo, mission statement, and a goal for each patient encounter you have. You want the products in your optical to align. Are you big on customer service? Your vendors should be big on customer service. Do you want the best vision possible for your patients? Your lenses should be the best. Most importantly, you are the owner of an independent practice earned with hard-work and dedication. Don’t you want to work with companies with those same values?

3. Customer service is king

It’s so difficult to find excellent customer service. As independent practices, we are unlikely to compete on cost so we must excel in service. One of the most frustrating things for me is to call a frame company and be put through a phone tree. We need things resolved quickly and efficiently, and independent frame companies make this happen. When a patient’s temple breaks, we need a replacement sent ASAP. Independent frame companies are like independent doctors, their reputation is important, and service is always reigns supreme.

Like private practice, most independent eyewear companies are relatively small. Their reputation and acceptance by independent practices is vital to their success. Those familiar with large eyewear corporations know all correspondence must go through a phone tree. It can be difficult to get questions answered or frame issues addressed.

In contrast to many large brands, with independent frame lines, a person answers the phone, and one can have an issued resolved with a single phone call. In a busy optical this means that your opticians can spend their time with your patients, not on the phone about back orders or broken frames.

4. Unique character

So many frame lines are similar, and have the same shape and same color. Independent lines have their own character, their own charm, and their own stories. They are not common to all people, but decide who they are, and carry that distinction well. The best quality eyewear is so distinctive, one has the ability to look at a piece and know instantly which line it is from.

Branded lines get their design aesthetic from independents because independent eyewear companies continually innovate and reinvent themselves. They push the envelope and deliver unique eyewear shapes and combine different mediums. Successful brands are clearly identifiable by their unique look, their seasonal collections are cohesive, and if you were to go into a chain store, you would find similar (copied) shapes with only the brand name varying due to licensing agreements.

For example, brands such as Ray Ban and Versace are licensed brands. Luxottica buys the brand name and applies it to their manufactured frames. Many of my patients have remarked that all of the frames “looked the same” when they visited corporate chain retailers. Similarly, Warby Parker frames all have a similar chunky, neutral color appearance. They lack the creativity and design that California brand LA Eyeworks has made famous on the face of celebrities such as Elton John.

5. Unmatched quality

In 99.9% of cases, frame materials used by independents are superior to those that have been mass produced. Double barrel hinges are the standard for these companies, and independent frame lines pride themselves in using the best in available materials, titanium, stainless steel, and Mazzucchelli acetate.

Typically, plastic frames are made of a type of zyl, also known as zylonite, or cellulose acetate. Zyl frames can be a combination of different materials: polyamide, nylon, polycarbonate, carbon and Optyl (epoxy resin). In contrast, metal frames are made of a mixture of different metals.
It’s important to know the materials involved in the manufacturer of your frame.

Why do materials matter?

Materials influence the frame’s durability and fit.

  • Mazzucchelli acetate is the best quality cellulose acetate available for frame production. The Mazzucchelli acetate is produced in blocks like granite and then cut according to frame design. It is far superior to other type of acetate due to easy adjustments, less breakage, increased strength, and most importantly, it will stay in adjustment.
  • Cellulose acetate originates from natural cotton fibers, and patients are able to feel the difference in frame fit. Patients who buy frames of this quality tend to be loyal to those frame lines, and by extension, to the practice they get them from. Mazzucchelli is now being produced in both Italy and Asia. The original Italian Mazzuccheli is superior as I’ve found the type produced in Asia feels more light-weight and is more flimsy.
  • Titanium is the strongest, most durable, lightweight metal. Titanium is the premium material for metal frames, but know that the consumer will pay top dollar for titanium frames.
    Stainless steel frames are an alternative to titanium frames. They are also light-weight and strong, but not quite as durable. They can be a little less costly and will likewise not corrode.
  • Wood, bone, and buffalo horn are all unique materials of which high end frames may be made. Special care must be taken when adjustments are made, but these frames are truly artistic works of art!

I’ve found the quality of independent frame lines much superior to big manufacturers. As with any other item, mass production usually decreases quality. There’s not a difference quality-wise between a $500 frame and a $100 frame with mass production. The difference is the brand name on the temple.

6. Niche location

Nowadays, eyeglasses are commercialized and commoditized. One can’t turn on the TV without an advertisement for a commercial spectacle location or online glasses website. Even commercials dedicated to the spectacle manufacturing process can be misleading. Your practice can be a destination for those looking for something unique and different. Build your practice on styling an interesting look for a patient. Frames should be like shoes, you would not wear the same pair of shoes for a wedding that you would for hiking. Similarly, one should keep in mind attire or outfits when choosing multiple frame wardrobes.

Whether choosing a frame for yourself or looking to add a frame collection to your office, independent eyewear companies have many advantages over mass-produced brands such as Luxottica and Warby Parker.

For someone who wants a unique piece of art, an independent frame from Vinylize would be an unbelievable choice. If you’re a doctor looking for a supportive, quality line to partner their business with I recommend Europa. For more information on eyewear companies that are truly independent, visit luxuryeyewearforum.com.

And there you have it. The top six reasons why I believe you should buy from independent eyewear companies. Align your brand with your values and ensure that you’re providing top-quality eyewear. It’s time for a change—buy SMART, buy independent!

References

1. Tran, Hung. “Fashion 101: Licensing in the Fashion Industry.” Antwerpsex. Antwerpsex, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 July 2015.

2. McCulloch, Mark. “Branding and Marketing: What’s the Difference?” Marketing Donut. Marketing Donut, n.d. Web. 17 July 2015.

About Courtney Dryer

Courtney Dryer
Courtney Dryer is a 2011 graduate of SCO. She opened 4 Eyes Optometry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC in February of 2013. After 5 years, the practice name was changed to Autarchic Spec Shop to renew the practice's commitment to independent optometry. In addition to consulting with new graduate optometrists on start-up practices, she contributes regularly to New Grad Optometry and has guest blogged for Invision Magazine. The unique design of her boutique practice was featured in Women in Optometry. In 2015, Vision Monday named her a Rising Star, and one of the most influential women in optical.

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